This is our fifth lesson in Ephesians, a book that is, or should be, well known to Christians who are long established in their walk with Christ. I this passage on Friday, and was immediately struck with how rich it is, and how full of wonder statements. Here are the ones that stood out to me.
2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
2:14 For he himself is our peace....
2:15b His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace....
2:18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
2:19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household....
2:20b ...with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
2:21 In him the whole building...rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
How rich! how full! how memorable! are these fragments, all worthy in their own right to be memorized by the devout Christian, as well as in place as part of a full passage.
The context of these in Ephesians is easy to understand from reading the full passage. Paul speaks of the Jew and Gentile as those who were near to and far away from God, respectively. The work of Jesus, specifically through his blood (i.e. his death) is the method God used to bring these two groups together to the point where they could put aside their natural animosity toward each other and become one church, one holy people devoted to God. Paul had alluded to this in a statement earlier in Ephesians:
1:9-10 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
In our modern world it's difficult to understand the division there was at the time of Paul, and of Jesus, between Gentile and Jew. Or is it? In the class I gave an illustration of a sermon I once heard preached by a leader in our church. He was in South Africa, helping people at an altar of prayer, people praying for salvation. One man expressed joy at having prayed through and found assurance of salvation. This preacher started questioning the man. "Do you love your neighbor?" "Oh yes!" "Do you love your family?" "Oh yes?" "Do you love the Dutch?" The man praying was of English descent, and he hesitated at this question. The preacher told him to keep praying, and went off to help others.
Later he came back to that man and said, "Do you love the Dutch?" "Oh yes!" "Do you love the black man?" Again the seeker hesitated, so the preacher told him to keep praying, that he had not really prayed through.
Alas, our world is full of such divisions. How often have you heard it said, "There are two kinds of people in the world: Texans, and those who wish they were Texans." Or maybe its corollary: "There are two kinds of people in the world: Texans, and those who are glad they aren't Texans." We are still divided racially, ethnically, nationally, by language, by customs and culture, by doctrine and worship practices, by social status, by economic status.
The answer for breaking down all these barriers isn't better understanding of the other group. It's not intermingling, though that can help. No, the answer to this is the blood of Christ, working in the human heart and changing that heart, casting aside sin and its guilt, and creating a new heart, a new man.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross...How I wish it were so! That sin did not now separate man into hostile camps.
Come, Lord Jesus.